That was the message from former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable at the Aito overseas conference in Jordan last week.
Speaking to TTG, Cable agreed the sector should have its own dedicated minister, rather than being part of a shared portfolio, and said he believed the travel sector should be given “added support” to aid it through the uncertainty of Brexit, with more needed to be done to safeguard its prosperity.
“Particularly now with the uncertainty of Brexit, [travel] needs added support. [The government] is overwhelmed at the moment and we haven’t even got a basic negotiating position agreed,” he said.
Cable, who was secretary of state for business, innovation and skills as part of the coalition government between 2010-2015, said the travel sector should be featured in the government’s key “industrial strategy” post-Brexit.
“Industrial strategies are important in giving some long-term certainty to key sectors and I see no reason why tourism shouldn’t be one of them,” he continued.
Cable added Brexit would likely lead to confusion for the sector, which could last for several years.
“The danger is we will get a broad transitional agreement on fundamentals but when you’re dealing with the detail of the Package Travel Directive (PTD) or aviation agreements… there will be a lack of clarity for many years,” he said. “The more detailed stuff such as PTD could take 8 to 10 years to sort out.
“The sooner that the government is able to get into that nitty gritty and not just the broad principles, the better everybody will be.”
Cable added that the sector had been neglected by government even before the vote for Brexit.
“Brexit apart, I always felt that tourism was poorly represented in government,” he told TTG.
“We [the Coalition government] had an industrial strategy that was pretty effective, but for reasons that I never fully understood, the travel industry was never part of it despite it being a big industry, in terms of both tourists visiting the UK and British people going overseas, and the vast numbers of people it employs.”
He suggested the sector had been hampered by being in the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).
“Part of the problem was that travel was parked in DCMS, which was not the most influential ministry. Maybe it needs to now be in the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy so more could be done with it,” he added.